The Center for Process Studies (CPS) is a nonprofit think-and-action tank that conducts interdisciplinary research and education to cultivate holistic understanding for human and planetary flourishing.
Founded in 1973 by John B. Cobb, Jr. and David Ray Griffin, CPS is influenced by the process-relational philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)—an ecological worldview that considers interdependence, change, and intrinsic value to be core features of reality. Accordingly, CPS programming engages three distinct, yet interrelated, areas of concern: 1) science & philosophy, 2) human experience & meaning, and 3) society & sustainability. Within and between these areas of inquiry CPS works to deepen understanding of what the world is like, what it means to be human, and how we should live. As Whitehead once said, “As we think, we live. This is why the assemblage of philosophic ideas is more than a specialist study. It moulds our type of civilization.” And that’s ultimately what CPS is about; advancing more sustainable, equitable, peaceful, and meaningful ways of living—what we call an ecological civilization.
We hope that individuals around the world can grow in happiness—a sense of wonder, playfulness, joy, inner peace, compassion, zest for life.
We hope that people can build local communities that are creative, compassionate, participatory, humane to animals, and good for the earth, with no one left behind.
We hope that the planet as a whole can avoid humanly-imposed disaster and can flourish with multiple forms of life, each with its unique beauty. We want to help people create ecological civilizations that are conducive to the Earth community.
We hope that forms of thinking can emerge that draw from science, art, and spirituality; that are honest to the way that the world is: that show how things are connected to one another; and that inspire living with respect and care for the community of life.
CPS is the hub of a global network of more than 10,000 educators, visionaries, and activists committed to promoting holistic thinking that advances social, spiritual, and environmental wellbeing. With more than 45 process centers and nonprofits around the world, led by scholars on 6 continents, our recent programs have engaged more than 12 million people worldwide. CPS has deep roots in Claremont, California but now plays a vital leadership role for the process community worldwide. Cultivated by many hands for more than 50 years, a number of branches have grown within the CPS family tree. Some of these branches manifest as ongoing programs within CPS (like P&F). Others manifest as independent non-profits (with distinct missions, programs, and online presence, etc.) but work closely with CPS. In either case, these branches are nurtured by a shared root system and can be collectively identified as part of the CPS family.
Founded in 1973 by John B. Cobb, Jr. and David Ray Griffin as a faculty center of Claremont School of Theology (CST) in affiliation with Claremont Graduate University (CGU), the Center for Process Studies was established to conduct research and promote understanding of a process relational worldview. CPS was among the oldest and largest faculty centers in Claremont, CA. Since its creation half-a-century ago, the very intellectual life of graduate studies in Claremont has been deeply intertwined with CPS research and programming.
Claremont is known worldwide for its leadership in interfaith dialogue. This is due, in large part, to the work of CPS. The Cobb-Abe exchanges provided an early model for Christian-Buddhist dialogue, and in the 1970s CPS organized a number of conferences engaging with Buddhism, Hinduism, Chinese religions, and Mormonism. In the 80s and 90s, Claremont became synonymous with religious pluralism, as John Cobb, David Griffin, Marjorie Suchocki, and others from CPS challenged the paradigm of their Claremont colleague John Hick. That work continued to the present, under the leadership of people like Roland Faber.
Claremont has also been at the forefront of science and religion dialogues. Whereas faith and science were at odds in many seminaries, CST has promoted ways of being religiously committed that are compatible with modern intuitions and scientific insights. This work was initiated by a CPS conference on modern science in 1974. Soon after, CPS organized a series of conferences on physiological psychology and neuroscience, before bringing world-famous physicists like David Bohm, and biologists like Lynn Margolis to Claremont in the 1980s. This legacy continues today through collaboration with biologists like Merlin Sheldrake, and having science and religion experts like Philip Clayton on the CST faculty.
Perhaps more than anything, CST is known for being a global leader in progressive theological education where all people are welcome. CPS contributed to this identity as well, helping to establish the field of eco-theology in the 1970s, and holding major conferences on feminism, post-patriarchy, and sexuality in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Such visionaries like Rosemary Radford Reuther, Marjorie Suchocki, Mary Elizabeth Moore, Catherine Keller, and Monica Coleman, were among the leaders of these CPS initiatives.
Over the years, Claremont faculty members that shared a vested interest in the work of CPS were invited to formally serve as faculty co-directors. John Cobb and David Griffin were the founding co-directors in 1973. Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki became a co-director in 1990. Philip Clayton became a co-director in fall 2003. Roland Faber became a co-director in January 2006, and Monica A. Coleman became a co-director in fall 2008. Of course many other faculty, staff, and students in Claremont played vital leadership roles at CPS over the years. Some of those include Mary Elizabeth Moore, Bill Stegall, Judy Casanova, Will Beardslee, Jay McDaniel, Catherine Keller, Jeanyne Slettom, John Sweeney, John Quiring, and many more than could be named here. In fall 2013, Wm Andrew Schwartz (a PhD student at the time) was appointed as Managing Director of CPS. Upon completion of his PhD in fall 2016 Schwartz was appointed as Executive Director of CPS.
In summer of 2020, CPS went through a major transition; relocating to Salem, OR as part of a first wave of CST programs that were to become part of Willamette University (WU). Unfortunately, CST’s integration with Willamette University was never realized. At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, the affiliation between CST and WU ended. Forced to move from the WU campus, CPS (and especially our library/archives) needed a new home. In August 2022, CPS relocated again to St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Milwaukie, OR (8 miles from downtown Portland, OR). While these years of awkward transitions contributed to the need for independence, the shift was in the making for quite some time.
Over the course of our 50 year history, CPS evolved. What started as a modest faculty project in the early 70s became the hub of a global movement that now includes more than 45 process centers and nonprofits around the world, led by scholars and activists on 6 continents. A new organizational structure was needed to match this new role. In the words of one CPS advisor, “You’re 50 years old; it’s time to get out of your parent’s basement!”
On May 15, 2023 the CST Board of Trustees approved a proposal that enabled CPS to establish itself as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. This new organizational structure empowers CPS to better collaborate with other process centers, schools, nonprofits, and relevant entities, as we move into the next 50 years.